retour article original
par Patrick COCKBURN
After an eight-minute trial a judge in Egypt has sentenced to death 683 alleged supporters of the former President Mohamed Morsi who was ousted in a military coup last July. Among those condemned to die is the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been declared a terrorist organisation despite its tradition of non-violence and having won Egypt’s first-ever democratic elections.
The verdict after such a short mass trial is likely to discredit further the Egyptian authorities internationally, but they may not care about this so long as the military-backed regime can secure its power domestically. The sentencing by the judge Said Youssef on Monday in a court in Minya, 150 miles south of Cairo, was given a further bizarre twist when he reduced death sentences he imposed in March on all but 37 of 529 defendants to terms of life imprisonment. The effect of the mass death sentences and life-long terms of imprisonment after a summary hearing will be to spread fear that any dissent could lead to execution or lengthy terms in Egypt’s notoriously brutal prison system.
Among those condemned to death is Mohamed Badie, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, most of whose leaders have been arrested. President Morsi was the first Egyptian leader chosen in a democratic election after millennia of authoritarian rule, but he was unable to gain control of institutions such as the army, police and judiciary. He was overthrown in a military coup led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on 3 July 2013. Supporters of the coup have claimed a quasi-democratic mandate because of a giant anti-Morsi rally on 30 June that they see as invalidating previous election results.
The death sentences imposed on Monday still have to be referred to the Grand Mufti but this is largely a formality. The mass trials are linked to the protests and riots that broke out last August when the security forces moved to crush sit-ins staged by the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters to show opposition to the coup. A report by Amnesty International says that at least 1400 protesters and bystanders were killed by the security forces between July 2013 and January 2014 and another 16000 people are in jail.